Notes from the Field: An Unexpected Reason to Visit Chatham, Mass.

September 10, 2012

By Karin Lidbeck Brent

We all know Chatham on Cape Cod is a great destination for its beautiful beaches and intoxicating scenery. However, I recently discovered another reason to recommend a trip to the quaint seaside town: The Arconti American Museum.

Photos by Karin Lidbeck Brent

For many serious collectors, the idea of opening a museum is only a dream, but for Susan and Michael Arconti and their daughters Alexandra and Jessica, following this dream is their lifestyle. For over the course of a lifetime, the Arconti family has collected original American artifacts from the revolutionary period through modern day. These rare and important pieces of history are on display in their beautiful museum, showcased with a striking design. Their collection holds hundreds of years of American history, world class collections and one-of-a-kind items.

From its inception, every inch of the Arconti American Museum has been designed and built by the Arcontis and their daughters themselves, with the aspiration to make the space feel theatrical and dramatic. They searched the country for reclaimed and architecturally inspiring pieces to use in their displays. Salvaged finds, such as the large entry museum doors from Calvin Klein’s Dragon Head Estate, make an inviting and impressive entrance.

I love the originality Susan used to design the display room of original sketches used in Charlotte’s Web, the well-known children’s novel published in 1952.

In contrast, the Arcontis created a Federal period room that showcases our country’s money denominations through the centuries, including a early seventeenth-century Wampun necklace.

The museum is also filled with many informative documents, historic letters and newspaper stories that bring you from one century to another, allowing you to reminisce in an abundance of American history.

Although, you may realize how somethings will never change when you see a common set of playing cards from the early 17th century on rawhide, part of the museum’s Native American collection.

I was equally intrigued with the wall of Life magazine covers, bringing back memories of the highly controversial 1960s era.

It is hard to choose which part of the museum I liked best, the evolution of the baseball glove or perhaps the WWII displays, all vital parts of American history that cannot afford to be forgotten.

With an eye for excellent design, the Arconti family has created a beautifully arranged and stocked museum of amazing artifacts that are so varied and unusual that I spent hours deeply absorbed and entertained. There is so much at the museum for you to explore, such as original letters from survivors of the Titanic and even a 1967 Harley Davidson with a side car. Make sure to put the Arconti American Museum at the top of your to-do list and make it part of a trip to Chatham, because it should definitely not be missed!

Arconti American Museum
33 Depot Road, Chatham
When: Tuesday-Saturday: 1 p.m.- 4 p.m. Thursday, 1 p.m.- 7 p.m.


For more destinations worth a day-trip, check out:

Oliphant: Jewels for Self and Home

A trip to Camden, Maine

Shopping in Kent, Connecticut